Something that I’ve had trouble with lately is coming up with content for the blog outside of the interviews I’m conducting. What do people want to hear? What do they want to read? What would keep them engaged? I posed the question on Reddit and immediately got a response about a young man who needed motivation for his team and for himself, going up against a high school rival. It got me thinking about my biggest revenge game and how we overcame adversity that day.
I was the captain of my college club water polo team for two years, and won three titles with the program. With two titles under our belt, we thought we were a shoe in to win the title the third year as well. After our first two tournaments, we came out with a record of 3-5. No where near what we expected. Morale was at an all time low, teammates were giving up, and the program seemed destined to place 2nd or 3rd and move to the next year. After weeks of intense practice, hours of film work, and a week of intense game planning, we got to the regional championship weekend. Standing in our way was by far the best team in the division that year. I turned to the team before the game, with a speech I had practiced for weeks to hype them up. Looking around that huddle, I could tell they were shaken, and that they weren’t confident in our odds despite the weeks of practice. I threw away the “rah rah” speech that I had practiced for weeks and went with my gut. “Guys, I know this is gonna sound cliche as fuck, but it needs to be said. Everyone has a game plan until they get punched in the mouth. Everyone. If you think that UF doesn’t think that they’re gonna come out and just absolutely steamroll us, you’re dead fucking wrong. They think they have us figured out, they think they know us, know our game plan, know our strengths and weaknesses, know our character. If I can ask one thing of you today, it’s to go out there and punch them in the fucking mouth. Score the first goal, draw the first ejection, beat your man down the pool during a turnover. Punch them in the mouth and see where their game plan goes from there.”
We won that game 13-8.
One of my old high school teammates was on that UF team and he came up to us after the game and told us that “To be quite honest, I’m shocked”. I asked him why (knowing in the back of my head where he might go with it) to see what they were thinking from the other side of the fence. He told me that they just didn’t take this game as seriously after the second tournament. That they showed up to practice without the same motivation, the same fire, the same drive. That they took this opportunity for granted considering how they wiped the floor with us all season, and how they didn’t think regionals would be any different.
Unfortunately for my friend, I had the biggest smile in the world stretched across my face. They thought they had us figured out, nailed down our game plan, figured out our strengths and weakness, and accurately sized our team up. Everything that I had said to my team pre-game was exactly where the competitions head was at, and I knew that if we put in more effort, more heart, more practice, more film, and more character into each and every practice that we had, we would be unstoppable.
We went on to crush the championship game as well, and make it to our third straight National tournament. So if you are looking for motivation, for drive, for that extra mile, I leave you with this. Get after your team, tell them they can do it, inspire them, hold them accountable and ask that they do the same for you. Lead by example. The glory of winning feels so much better when no one thinks that you can.
Everyone has a game plan until they get punched in the mouth. So take the first swing.